THE proposed extension of the Frankston line to Baxter is in serious doubt, with $225 million in federal funding for the project on the chopping block. The Liberal federal government committed $225 million towards the extension of the Frankston line in 2018. Since then the project has laid dormant, and no other level of government has contributed cash towards it.
While releasing its first budget last Tuesday, the Labor federal government confirmed that an independent review into all Infrastructure Investment Program projects not yet under construction will be undertaken. The Times has confirmed that the Frankston line extension is one of the projects under review. Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said the review is a “genuine review to get the best outcome”. “All Infrastructure Investment Program projects not currently under construction and not an election commitment are in the 90 day independent review. The budget reflects the Albanese government’s commitment to keeping the Commonwealth infrastructure investment pipeline at $120 billion over 10 years,” she said. “[The review] has the cooperation of the states and territories and will look at what projects are still priorities for the Commonwealth, states and territories. The review is looking at how projects can be delivered, what the true cost is, and how those projects can be delivered given the economic conditions we face.”
A business case assessing the electrification and duplication of the Frankston line to Baxter revealed that the total cost of the project could be up to $1.5 billion. The business case was completed before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal cannot proceed without more funds being committed to it. In the leadup to the 2022 state election, the state Liberal opposition promised to build the project within four years of being elected at a cost of $971 million. The re-elected Labor government did not match the promise.
Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke cast further doubt on the project last year when he told The Times that he was concerned that the proposal would wipe out homes, land, and the historic Frankston Signal Box (“Baxter rail extension could wipe out homes, historic sites” The Times 19/10/22).
Infrastructure minister Catherine King said that the independent infrastructure review will “allow all levels of government time to consider the projects that are actual priorities, and assess their cost and deliverability in the current climate.” “Under the Liberals and Nationals, the number of infrastructure projects in the pipeline blew out from 150 to almost 800. Projects were left without adequate funding, resources or genuine commitment,” she said. “The Albanese government is keeping the $120 billion rolling 10-year pipeline – and every dollar remains in the budget. But it would be irresponsible to move ahead without fixing the backlog.”